Hundreds have gathered in Melbourne to farewell Victorian senator Kimberley Kitching, who died suddenly at the age of 52.
Family, friends and politicians from both major parties were attending Senator Kitching’s funeral at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on Monday afternoon.
She died from a suspected heart attack in the Melbourne suburb of Strathmore on March 10. She was driving and pulled over after becoming unwell.
Close friend and former Labor leader Bill Shorten, Liberal senator Bridget McKenzie, Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith, Labor MPs Anne Aly, Madeleine King and Tony Burke were all seen arriving at the cathedral.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Defence Minister Peter Dutton, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash and construction union boss John Setka were also there.
Three Labor senators accused in the media of bullying the late senator – Kristina Keneally, Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher – were also in attendance.
Labor senator Don Farrell opened the service by reading out a tribute from Senate president Slade Brockman.
“Kimberley was an exemplar of a senator, using her role within the Senate and its committees in driving policy change,” he told those gathered.
“Kimberley brought to Australian politics a worldview that transcended narrow partisan boundaries.
“She had a clear moral compass, to which she always held true. She believed in and championed Australian democracy.”
In his own tribute, Senator Kitching’s husband Andrew Landeryou recalled the pair’s wedding, which took place in the same venue more than 20 years ago.
“It feels like yesterday… that I saw her walking in, her customary 45 minutes late, looking absolutely radiant,” he said.
“As she did, the sun streamed down directly on her as she stepped toward our married life.”
Mr Landeryou said his wife “didn’t believe in half measures”.
“Many of our friends here today stood with us that day and I see your faces and your tears, because you’ve stood with us every day since,” he said.
He said he was angry that he did not persuade his wife to slow down in the lead-up to her sudden death.
“I’m angry I wasn’t driving her on that busy day, because I often did,” he said.
“I’m angry I didn’t meddle enough in her health, I’m angry I failed and failed again to persuade her to slow down and angry I didn’t protect her from menace and fear.”
Mr Landeryou also addressed the claims of bullying.
“The simple truth of it is that Kimberley’s political and moral judgment was vastly superior to the small number who opposed her internally,” hesaid.
He said a “cantankerous cabal” had been “aimed at Kimba”.
“The intensity of it did baffle and hurt her,” he said.
“I hope it’s sufficient to say that she deserved so very much better.”
In a tweet ahead of the service, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese remembered Senator Kitching as “formidable, passionate and courageous” in a tweet ahead of the funeral.
“Kimberley Kitching’s friends, family, and colleagues from across the parliament will gather to honour and celebrate her life,” he tweeted.
“She was the life of any room she walked into. She will be missed by those who knew her, and many more who didn’t.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his thoughts were with Senator Kitching’s family, but indicated Mr Albanese had questions to answers about her treatment in parliament.
“When [Anthony Albanese] has to deal with the same issues in his own house, well, he shuts up shop and gets into the basement,” he told Brisbane radio station 4BC.
However, Labor frontbencher Mark Butler said the funeral should be a day to celebrate Senator Kitching’s life, not to bring up divisive issues.
“Today of all days is not to go into a number of the claims being made and things being said over recent days,” he told ABC Radio.
“Today is a day for the people who knew Kimberley to get around each other, hug each other and celebrate an extraordinary life that was ended far too early.”